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How tuberculosis will affect your UAE visa application

In our blog post entitled UAE Tuberculosis: Information you need to breathe easy, we detailed key information on tuberculosis (TB) – one of the top ten killer diseases overall worldwide. As a reminder, TB is a disease caused by germs (bacteria) that are spread from person to person through the air. TB will typically affect the lungs but can go on to affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidney, and spine.

For this blog post by Pacific Prime Dubai, we will focus more on how the UAE government visa application policy has changed in recent years to tackle the issue of TB and provide an in-depth overview of prevention, and treatment of the disease.

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A reflection of TB in the UAE

The UAE has always had a strong community health policy to protect its citizens against infectious diseases and potential public health threats. A number of laws have been established to offer protection to the population. For instance, the Federal Medical Fitness Law states that all residents must have a health card or private health insurance policy.

On February 25, 2016, the Council of Ministers issued a new resolution further amending the medical examination system for arrivals to the UAE for work or residence. Under the new regulation, apart from new residence permit applicants, visa renewal applicants must also take a series of medical testing, including for TB (by taking a chest x-ray) and HIV (by having a blood test), while other tests like those for Hepatitis and Syphilis are only applicable to certain categories of workers. These categories include:

  • Workers in nurseries
  • Domestic workers including housemaids, nannies, and drivers
  • Food handlers and workers in restaurants and cafes
  • Workers in saloons and beauty centres
  • Workers in health clubs

Tuberculosis test for visa renewal applicants

All applicants already living in the UAE have to take a TB screening while renewing their visas. Those found with old scars, active TB, or drug-resistant TB will be given a one-year conditional residence visa. It is then mandated that they make three visits to preventive health centres within the UAE for free follow-up treatment until cured. Anyone who fails to comply with the protocol for TB, or who does not show up at the centres for three consecutive visits will be considered unfit and deported from the UAE.

For expatriates who are currently living in the country, they will now be allowed to sponsor their spouses, children, and parents with TB scars and active TB, provided that they are compliant with the treatment protocol.

Previous UAE laws had stipulated that any expatriates in the UAE diagnosed with TB would be deported with immediate effect.

Where to get a medical examination

Medical fitness/examination centres are located across the UAE, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. For more details, check out the medical examination centres for residency offered by the Ministry of Health and Prevention – Preventive Medicine Department.

Medical examination centres enable an expatriate to obtain a certificate of good health following a fitness examination to prove that he or she is free from communicable and infectious diseases. Examinations typically include:

  • HIV and AIDS screening
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Leprosy
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

Tuberculosis testing for new visa applicants

As for first-time applicants for a residence visa, or those who re-enter after cancellation, if they are found with TB scars or active TB, their applications will be immediately rejected.

Nevertheless, based on the discretion of relevant authorities, if the new visa candidate is a member of a diplomatic or consular corps, a direct-relative of a UAE resident (including children studying in the UAE under the sponsorship of a school), or a leading investor as determined by the business licensing authority, the candidate may still be granted residency.

Prevention of tuberculosis

As mentioned in our previous blog post, tuberculosis can be subdivided into active and latent. As such, one important aspect of tuberculosis prevention is to stop latent TB infection from progressing to active TB disease.

Generally speaking, a large proportion of persons with latent TB infection never develop TB disease. Only about 5 to 10% of the infected will develop the disease at different times during their lives. Some may develop it soon (within weeks) upon infection before their immune system can fight the bacteria, while others may get sick years later when their immune system turns weak. All in all, those with weaker immune systems are at high risk for developing TB, such as HIV patients, babies and young children, and those who were not treated properly for TB in the past.

Another important aspect of tuberculosis prevention is vaccination. You may want to get your little ones vaccinated, particularly because of the high-risk TB poses to them, and the fact that the vaccine works well in children.

Currently, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the only effective tuberculosis vaccine in common use. Pharmaceutical companies have in recent years been developing a new recombinant vaccine, such as VPM1002, M72/ASO1E, and H56:IC31, to replace BCG, or to invent booster vaccines to supplement the existing BCG vaccine and improve its effectiveness.

Treatment of tuberculosis

All UAE residents, including their first-degree relatives, such as parents, spouses, or offsprings, are eligible for free TB treatment at any designated treatment centres according to the international TB treatment protocol.

Latent TB patients that are at risk of developing active TB need to take the full course of prescribed medicine to fully recover. Since there is less of the bacteria in their bodies, treatment for latent TB infection (LTBI) is considered easier than treatment for active TB.

Treatment options recommended for LTBI include 6-month isoniazid, or 9-month isoniazid, or 3-month regimen of weekly rifapentine plus isoniazid, or 3–4 months isoniazid plus rifampicin, or 3–4 months rifampicin alone.

In cases of active TB, patients are rendered stable and non-infectious within four weeks of treatment but will be kept in isolation until proven infection-free; while others have to report for periodic screening and medication. It is of the essence that patients finish their medicine and take the drugs exactly as prescribed so that they will not become sick again and the TB bacteria will not become resistant to the drugs.

(Take note: For information and further guidance, you are encouraged to seek medical advice on the type of medication to take to treat TB in the UAE.)

Comprehensive protection from tuberculosis

As much as we want to prevent tuberculosis, even with the vaccination, it can still be difficult to accomplish. After all, it is a highly contagious disease that transmits through microscopic droplets released into the air and in places of mass gatherings. As such, it is crucial that you secure suitable health insurance to protect you and your loved ones, so that you won’t be caught off guard and face hefty medical fees for treating TB– or any other disease, for that matter.

With Pacific Prime Dubai, you are guaranteed to receive excellence every step of the way when it comes to receiving impartial advice and a satisfying comparison of all your health insurance plan options. A number of plans are available, such as:

Leveraging our years of experience and extensive knowledge, our team of experts here at Pacific Prime Dubai is always on hand to answer your questions. Get your free quote today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Dubai
Anthony Chan is a content writer at Pacific Prime. He’s responsible for writing, translating, and editing articles, guides, infographics, leaflets, as well as other resources for Pacific Prime and Kwiksure.

When he’s not working, he’s usually on the hunt for great restaurants, playing badminton, and writing screenplays.